The importance of managing weeds in seminatural habitats that are adjacent to farm fields is unclear. Weedy-margin vegetation may harbor pests or pathogens and may also serve as source populations for ongoing immigration of weeds into the field. It is also possible, however, that margin vegetation provides habitat for organisms that consume weed seeds or suppress the likelihood of pest or pathogen outbreak. We examined the nature of margin habitat using spatial-scaling of weed-species richness as an ecological assay. In 2003, we recorded the occurrence of weedy species along the perimeters of 63 fields in Wisconsin. The fields were distributed within six counties that differed in topography, geological history, local climate, and soil type and which spanned the range of variability in the agricultural landscape. We identified seven habitats that differed in geology and land use. The relationship between species richness and margin class was estimated using an analog of the power law. Additionally, we investigated broadscale correlates of habitat heterogeneity at the field level, using a modeling strategy that included additional explanatory factors logically connected to plant diversity. Using a model-confrontation approach, the survey supported the inclusion of two topographical diversity indices, elevation gradient and a field-shape index, into our model. Our broadscale survey provides information on one of a suite of important considerations needed to make decisions about the importance of managing weeds in field margins.
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Vol. 55 • No. 2